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Saturday, March 31, 2018

AUSA Calls Baltimore Test Case "A Numismatic Fantasy"

AUSA Molissa Farber
"It's not a case about coins that the Guild wants. This is a case about regulations that the Guild doesn't want." That's how Assistant United States Attorney Molissa Farber characterized the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild's (ACCG) latest argument before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Baltimore test case.

Both the ACCG and federal government offered oral arguments to the appeals court on March 22, marking the case's ninth year winding through the court system.

Listen to the arguments presented in U.S. v. Three Knife-Shaped Coins et al. here. Attorney Peter Tompa argued for the Guild, and Attorney Farber for the government.

The test case started in 2009 when the ACCG imported unprovenanced Cypriot and Chinese ancient coins from a dealer in London. AUSA Farber told the court of appeals that "the Guild wanted to bring this case to pursue a numismatic fantasy of bringing down the CPIA's regulations on ancient coins."

The CPIA is the Cultural Property Implementation Act, the federal law that authorizes import controls safeguarding at-risk archaeological and ethnological objects originating in foreign nations that have signed bilateral agreements with the United States. Both Cyprus and China have such agreements.

AUSA Farber explained to the appeals court that the statutory purpose of the CPIA is "to prevent the importation of looted goods."

But the ACCG complained that the application of the CPIA violates its Fifth Amendment due process property rights, insisting that the government--not the importer--bears the burden to prove that ancient coins were first discovered in or were subject to export control of a State Party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. According to the Guild, federal authorities must satisfy this burden of proof before officials can seize and forfeit at-risk ancient coins under the CPIA's authority.

Farber countered this proposition. "As the district court observed,  looted goods are very unlikely to come with documentation as to their date of export. And ... if you put that burden on the government to show date of export you're allowing looted goods into the United States, which is contrary to the purpose of the statute." She pointed out that the CPIA statute mandates that the importer prove the date of export when that date is not known.

Thus far, the ACCG's many court actions have solidified, rather than weakened, the CPIA's capacity to prevent looted ancient coins from entering America's stream of commerce.
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